stay away from them.”
“Yes, Georgy. For the time being we stay away from them—and everyone else for that matter.”
“What about next refuel? Under half left.”
“Well, this thing will go well over 7,000 miles at this speed. We’re around 1,750 from the Carlsberg Ridge. Then another 250 to our final refueling point. We’re fine, Georgy.”
“Okay, what’s that, another ten days before we look for tanker?”
“Exactly. Are the crew all right?”
“Not bad. It long and boring, but we change that soon, eh?”
“Remember your chaps, all fifty of them, understand they are conducting a critical mission on behalf of Mother Russia. You should perhaps remind them of that.”
“High risk though, Ben. I don’t think I ever see home again. Either way.”
“Maybe not home. But you will have a new one in another place. We will take care of everything.”
261200JUN02. 21N, 64E. Course 005. Speed 10.
On board the Thomas Jefferson .
Three weeks into their on-station time, Admiral Carson’s Battle Group was four hundred miles southwest of Karachi and six hundred miles southeast of the Strait of Hormuz, home of the Iranian Naval base of Bandar Abbas. To the west lay the coast of Oman, to the north, the deeply sinister mountain ranges which reach down to the coast of Baluchistan.
On the direct instructions of the admiral, Captain Baldridge had called a conference of the main warfare departmental chiefs. They were all there, sitting around the boardroom-sized table in the admiral’s ops room—the key operators from the Combat Information Center, the senior Tactical Action Officer, the Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer, the Anti-Air Warfare Officer, the Submarine Element Commander, Captain Rheinegen, the master of the carrier itself, Commander Bob Hulton, the Air Boss. From the rest of the group,there were six senior commanders, including Captain Art Barry, of the guided missile cruiser Arkansas , New York Yankees fan and buddy of Jack Baldridge. He had flown thirty miles, from the western outer edge of the group.
For several of them it was a first tour of duty in the Arabian Sea, and Zack Carson considered it important to let them all understand why they were there, and to impress upon their various staff officers the critical nature of this particular assignment. “Now I know it’s real hot out here, and there doesn’t appear to be that much going on,” he said.
“But I’m here to tell you guys that this is an extremely serious place to be right now. The tensions in the Middle East have never been a whole hell of a lot worse, not since 1990. And as usual ownership of the oil is at the bottom of it all—and I don’t need to tell you that every last barrel of the stuff comes right out past here—Jesus, there’s more tankers than fish around here as I expect you’ve noticed.
“The policy of the State Department is pretty simple. As long as we are sitting right here, high, wide, and handsome, no one is going to cause much of an uproar, no one’s going to monkey around with the free movement of the oil in and out of the Gulf. However, should we not show a U.S. presence in these waters, all hell could break loose.
“The Iranians hate the Iraqis and vice versa. The Israelis hate the Iraqis worse than the Iranians. The Iraqis are plenty crazy enough to take another shot at the Kuwaitis. The Saudis, for all their size and wealth, are damned badly organized, and they control the most important oil field on earth—the one brother Saddam was really after in 1990.
“I guess I don’t need to tell you how dangerous it would be for world peace if anything happened to take that big oil field out of the free market. I can tell you the consequences if you like—the United States and Great Britain and France and Germany and Japan would be obliged to join hands and go to war over that oil, even if we had to take the whole damned lot away from the Arab nations. And that would be kinda disruptive. I expect you recall
Bathroom Readers’ Institute